Monday, November 28, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)

Today starts a week of vacation. I spent all morning cleaning carpets in our new house and now am taking a few minutes at our local coffee shop. We do not have internet at the house yet, or I would have posted this earlier today. That's okay. It should be installed later today or tomorrow, as long as I can find our modem in some box that we have. I really hope so, since I don't want to spend another hundred dollars.

Anyways, as to yesterday, I continued my series in the book of 1 Thessalonians that I gave called "Authentic Ministry." I am trying to show through the church of Thessalonica that they didn't play games in their church. They were serious about ministry with each other. And yesterday, we looked at one of those passages in the Bible that can be very complicated to understand. 

My main idea is that we can find encouragement in looking, longing, and anticipating the coming of Jesus. Ultimately the encouragement is found in the fact that when Jesus returns, He will come in judgment of people. Yet the Christian will NOT face the wrath of God. Verse 9 is the key to the entire section: The Christian has been destined by God to not face His wrath. But His wrath is poured out, just not on the person. It was poured out on Jesus, who died for us so that we might live with Him (vs. 10). Had Jesus not died for us, we too would be subject to God's wrath, just like the rest of humanity. But the greatest encouragement is that Jesus died in the place of all those who will ever believe. What an amazingly encouraging thought.

While the Christian will not face the wrath of God, he should still look forward to Jesus returning. In fact, he should live his life in light of the return of Jesus. The Christian should face things in this life differently than the Non-Christian. If you want to know how I work that out in the sermon, check it out HERE.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Video Sunday: How Does The Christian Resist Temptation by Joshua Harris

I thought this short video would be appropriate to post this Thanksgiving weekend. It might sound strange, but this weekend in particular, there will be many Christians that will struggle with temptation. Particularly the temptation of loving the world. I pray that we would all learn what it means to flee from loving the things of the world. May you learn from Joshua Harris as how to avoid temptation.
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Abraham Piper Introducing His Father

I feel bad that most of my posts this week have been short and not well thought out. But it is moving week. We are moving into our new house today. It has been an exhausting week, and I simply cannot wait until this day is over. But as my friend Seth Ross would say, "God is good."

Onto today's short video. I found this really interesting. What would it be like to be the son of John Piper? Abraham Piper introduces his father in a quite humorous and touching way.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grace is Sufficient by Shane & Shane

I love this song! It has been a long week and I really needed this song this morning. God's grace is sufficient for me and for you today!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, Scripture Style

It's Thanksgiving Day. The day we have set aside to give thanks. That sort of sounds strange to me as a Christian, because do we really need a day set aside in order to give thanks?

I thought the best thing I could offer today would be a list of Bible passages that have impacted me throughout the years. Most of these are probably familiar to you if you have been in the church for any length of time. It is my prayer that simply reading some Scripture will move you into deeper levels of thankfulness. Have a great day and remember that Jesus and the gospel changes everything!
"But Joseph said to them, 'Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:19-20) 
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:8-9) 
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) 
"How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2) 
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him. And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." (Isaiah 53:4-6) 
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30) 
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14) 
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)
Of course, there are countless other passages I could share that move me to thankfulness. These are just a sampling.

Question: What Passages Would You Share?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Initial Thoughts On Our New House

Two weeks ago, we closed on our new house. But it was this past Saturday that we picked up the keys and  received possession. Since that time, we have been working furiously to get some things done so we can move everything in this coming Saturday. We are doing some light reconstruction, lots of painting, and even more cleaning. It has been a busy week so far as I am working in the office during the day and at the house at night. There are many friends that have offered to help, including a bunch of ladies that are making the house smell good with cleaning products. I am certainly thankful for my dad to be here to help with the construction part of it. I couldn't do it without him.

As we get to this point, there are a few things that keep coming to my mind I am sure I will share many of them over the course of the next couple weeks. But let me share one thing today. It is God's providence that we get to move in on Thanksgiving weekend. We left our home in Kansas 10 months ago. Since that time, we have been in two different rentals. Most of our stuff has been stored in storage units or garages. We have longed so much to have a home we could call our own. We have longed so much to have a place we can start putting down roots and be at for a long time. And it just so happens that we get to do it the week of Thanksgiving. We are so thankful, words cannot express how we feel.

We hope that this place will be a place of ministry. We hope all of our friends from Kansas will come visit. We hope all of our friends here will stop by often to visit. For all these things and many more, we are so thankful that God saw fit to have us wait for His perfect timing. It was long and it was not easy, but it has been good for our family.

I am sure we will be posting more pictures on here and FaceBook as time permits over the next couple of weeks. I am on vacation next week, so once we get everything in its place, we will post so all of you far away can see a bit into our life now.

Question: Do You Like The Red Front Door?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Veteran's Day, A Bible, & My Grandparents

It was just a few weeks ago that we celebrated Veteran's Day. I failed to mention it then, but I am so thankful for all of the men and women who have fought for our freedom as a country. Some of my posts in the past might have seemed contradictory to this, but they shouldn't be. Let there be no mistake, my faith is Christian, not American. But that doesn't mean that I am not proud to be an American. And it certainly does not mean I am not thankful for all those women who risk their lives for our freedom. One of those men was Harold Roderick, my grandpa.

There is one possession I keep in my office that I count just as valuable as about anything else. It is a Bible that belonged to my Grandpa Roderick (mom's dad). It is a little pocket Bible that he had with him while he was in WWII. It is hard to read, but the Bible has inscribed on the front, "May the Lord be with you." It is small, only about 3" wide by 4.5" long and has a hard, metal front cover. The Natural Museum of American History says "Steel-covered New Testaments were popular keepsake gifts for soldiers going off to fight in World War II. Advertised in newspapers and magazines as protection from bullets, the small books were designed to be carried in the pocket over one's heart as both symbol and shield."

I really do not remember much about my grandpa except the smell of his pipe. I always like that. He passed away when I was in upper elementary from a horrible bought of liver cancer. I don't even know how I ended up with this Bible, but I am thankful for it. It was most likely a gift from my grandma to him, for in the inscription on the inside says, "To my darling with all my love and faith, Carrie." There are some days when I wonder what it was like for her to give him this Bible. What was she thinking as he went to war? Did she think this was the last thing she would ever give him? My grandma must have been all about giving Bibles, for I have another one in my office that I received from her. She wrote in this one as well. It says, "To Thad Bergmeier, From Grandma Roderick on his thirteenth birthday. This book will keep you from sin. Sin will keep you from this book." I have always loved that saying.

Back to my grandpa. You can see from the inside cover that he tracked his journeys during the war. He embarked on July 11, 1945 heading to Saipan. This would have been towards the very end of the war. he was discharged almost a year later on June 28, 1946. Other than his itinerary, I don't know what he did. I have often wondered if he read this book. I have looked through it looking for markings or something that might communicate that he read the Bible while he was gone. I have no idea.

My favorite part of this Bible is the back cover. It contains a picture of my grandma and grandpa, obviously taken sometime before he left for the war. I wish I would have had more time with him and would have more memories of him. Since my memories of him are limited, I treasure this Bible.

I am thankful for him and for all those that have fought in our military. And more than that, I am thankful for my grandma for giving him this Bible and the one she gave me. There might not be a better gift than that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

This was one of the hardest messages in the book of 1 Thessalonians for me to preach. There are many reasons for this, but primarily it is due to the fact that I feel like many people bring into this text an idea of what it says without even studying it. In fact, I think many Christians have been wrongly taught on the purpose of this section of Scripture.

It seems to me at least that there is a vast majority of Christians that are taught that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is the proof for a pre-tribulational rapture. I am not necessarily arguing against that view of the rapture, but I feel fairly strong that Paul's purpose in writing this was NOT to give a defense of that doctrine. Instead, his main purpose was to provide comfort for a group of people who had lost loved ones in Christ and were worried that their friends might miss the coming of Jesus. My main thought yesterday was that a proper understanding of the return of Jesus should should bring comfort to Christians.

Because there was so much that went into this, I would encourage you to read my full notes or to listen to the entire message to get the full gist of what I said. You can find them HERE.

Let me just add one thing here. Yes, this passage is meant to offer comfort to those who are living who have lost loved ones in Christ. But I also think it should offer a challenge. I think it should motivate us to live risky lives for Jesus. Think about it this way: what is the worst thing that someone could do to you because of your faith? Kill you? Take your life? Based on what this section of Scripture teaches (that those who have died in Christ will rise again when Jesus returns), shouldn't our response be "so what if they kill me?" If we believe this to be true, then we should have no problem living radically authentic risky lives for Jesus. Because death is not our enemy and even if we are killed for our faith, we have hope in the resurrection.

Here's the question to answer for your life: How Can I Live A Risky Life For Jesus?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Video Sunday: Wartime Lifestyle by John Piper

There are two reasons why I am posting this video today. One is that we just took possession of our new home yesterday and there are so many things I want to purchase to make my home more comfortable and enjoyable (more to come on that this week). The second reason is that while this coming week is about Thanksgiving, it is just about as much about stuff. Things. Possessions. Toys. Gadgets. Money!

I am moved by Piper's words here that we use our money in a wartime lifestyle mindset. I pray I do. And I pray you do!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Hatred of Tim Tebow


Yesterday I read a great article by Jen Floyd Engle of Fox Sports about Tim Tebow. I cannot ever remember a person that has created such a buzz in the NFL as Tebow, can you? The article is several weeks old, written after the Broncos played the Lions and Tebow was mocked for his prayer after celebration tradition (some have called it Tebowing). She asks the questions, "Why the heck do we hate Tim Tebow?" It might be worth a read for you, but here are a few quotes to wet your appetite.
"What if Tim Tebow were a Muslim? Imagine for a second, the Denver Broncos quarterback is a devout follower of Islam, sincere and principled in his beliefs and thus bowed toward Mecca to celebrate touchdowns. Now imagine if Detroit Lions players Stephen Tulloch and Tony Scheffler mockingly bowed toward Mecca, too, after tackling him for a loss or scoring a touchdown, just like what happened Sunday. I know what would happen. All hell would break loose."
Interesting thought, isn't it? What do you think would happen if the mockery was of a Muslim instead of a Christian? She continues
"I could not figure out what was causing this onslaught of venom for a guy almost everybody claims to like, and I finally decided it is more about us. He makes us uncomfortable. He is a reminder that the blue-red, liberal-conservative fight over taking God out of everyday life is intellectually dishonest. He is too good. Tebow is proof that God goes comfortably into whatever arena of your life you wish to take Him."
Why do you think Tebow is such a polarizing figure?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Elder's Meetings

I came to work yesterday at half force. It was everything I could do to get out of bed and get going. Even while I was at work, I felt like I was moving slower than a sloth. And that's not a good thing. I would just sit there for a few minutes staring into space and then realize I had not accomplished anything. Have you ever felt that way? I went to work very tired! Why? Two words: ELDER MEETING!

Even those words can make the hair on the back of some man's neck stand up, for they know what I mean. In every church I have been part of, elders meetings can last late into the night. On Wednesday night, our meeting lasted until just before midnight. Add that to an early morning on Thursday and it equals tired day.

As I finally mustered the energy to think about why elders meetings often go late into the night, there was only one reason that kept coming to my mind: the work elders do is very serious business. Let me explain. God has called the elders of a church to shepherd the people of the church. The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians elders:
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)
Later in Scripture, the Apostle Peter made this statement to a group of elders:
"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Elders should take great care in their meetings because they are called to shepherd the flock of God. It is their responsibility to make decisions and act with the overall health of the body of Christ in their mind. That is why it can often take time. It should be deliberate and careful.

So what does it look like? What do we do in an elder meeting? Let me pull the curtain back for a minute; here is what we tried to accomplish at our meeting on Wednesday night.
  • We prayed for many individuals in the church, including having one come to the beginning of the meeting so we could pray for them in person.
  • We planned and organized a few events coming up in the life of our church, including a Christmas Dinner
  • We approved a plan to give every family in the church a special gift at the start of our next series on January 8th. (No, I'm not going to tell you yet what it is)
  • We spent time refining our goals as a church for 2012 that will be discussed at our annual meeting on February 12th.
  • We reviewed the status of our youth ministry and prayed as to how God might lead and provide financially for another pastoral staff person in the near future.
  • We praised the Lord as we heard updates on the building process, benevolence issues, missions, finances, and our children's ministry.
  • We worked out some numbers related to the 2012 budget.
If you haven't taken the time, would you pray for your elders at your church today? Would you pray for your pastors? Would you pray for your deacons? Would you pray for those who give oversight to your church? They need it because the work they are doing is serious business!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Assurance of Salvation

Yesterday, I was looking through an old Bible that I received from my grandma when I was thirteen years old. In the front of the Bible, I had written a few notes to myself. Here is what I had written:

Thad Saved -- November 17, 1979
Thad Baptized -- February 22, 1987

What a coincidence that today is November 17th. Okay, let's get real for a minute. For some people, that date is a really big deal. For some people, they have the certificate hanging on the wall in their house that tells them the date they were saved. But I don't. Honestly, I don't remember much about it. I would not have known it was that day unless I saw it in the Bible. All I know about that day was what my mom has told me about it. We were driving to school on the highway. I was scared of going to hell when I died. She wanted to wait until we got to school and talk, but I was afraid she might wreck the car, so I made her pull over to the side of the road (I guess even back then I thought she was a bad driver). I was six years old and did not fully grasp the realities of the gospel in my life.

That doesn't mean I wasn't converted at that age. I might have been. But just because I have written in my Bible that I was saved that day doesn't mean that I was. What I do know is that it was between my Jr. & Sr. year of high school that things really started to click for me spiritually. But I was always sensitive to my sin before that time. I don't know when it happened, but here is what I do know: I know that today I am saved! You see, while it is cool to find a Bible with the date like that in it. My assurance and my confidence is not on that date. My assurance of my salvation is confirmed in my present life, not my past. In fact, I would argue that any real assurance of salvation is based upon three equally important aspects of our lives. And all three must be working in harmony with each other if we are going to have full assurance of our salvation.

The Word of God
Do I believe what the Bible has to say about salvation? Is my confidence in the God of the Bible? Do I believe salvation is by faith alone through Jesus alone by His grace alone? I must have the foundation understanding of salvation correct.

The Witness of the Spirit
Is the Spirit of God working and confirming in my heart that I am indeed saved? This is very subjective, but do I know because I know. The Scriptures say, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). One of the roles of the Spirit of God is to confirm upon our heart our desire and passion for Him.

The Walk of Obedience
Is my life progressively making strides towards holiness? Am I growing? The purpose of the book of First John is to test our assurance in the walk of obedience. Do we keep His commandments? Do we love one another? Do we practice righteousness? I think I could summarize it by saying, "are we growing in our faith?"

Now, just because you do not have one of these three present in your life does not mean you are not saved. But it might mean that you should stop to test yourself to see if your faith is real (2 Corinthians 13:5). Please do not just trust some prayer you prayed 32 years ago (as in my case). Please look at your current life and hold the Scriptures up as a mirror to your life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"180" Movie by Ray Comfort

Several months ago, I watched this new video by Ray Comfort called "180" Movie. The video begins with Comfort asking some random person, "Have you heard of Adolf Hitler?" Their answer was "no." That might seem shocking that a person has never heard of Hitler, but that is not the most shocking part of the video.

This video is ultimately a calling for Christians to deal with the issue of abortion. I would highly recommend that you watch it. I would highly recommend that you order the DVD and pass it out to people. He asks some very thought provoking questions as he ties together the issue of the holocaust and abortion. In the end, as Comfort does very well, he turns the conversation away from issues like abortion and directs people to Jesus. As you watch this, think of ways you might be able to use it to share the truth of Jesus with your friends and family.

Before you watch it, let me give a disclaimer. There are some very graphic images and content as he talks about the holocaust. You have been warned that there are some disturbing images.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman

I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan Leeman over a month ago when I attended The Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. While I was there, I was given several free books, including his book, Reverberation. He states his purpose in his introduction when he says, "I want to help you see that God's Word, working through God's Spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church" (19). Throughout the book, he consistently points to how God's people should be using God's Word for their spiritual growth. He explains the meaning of the title of the book when he says, "The ministry of the Word indeed begins in the pulpit, but then it must continue through the life of the life of the church as members echo God's Word back and forth to one another" (24). That's reverberation. This book is primarily about how individuals who are part of churches should rely upon and trust in the Word of God for their continual spiritual growth. 

We know, of course, that the Word of God is often under attack. There are many who deny it completely. But those are not the ones who do the most damage to the name of Christ. It is those people who claim the name of Christ, yet subtly deny the power and importance of the Word of God in the life of the church that do more damage. He says,
"If the Word of God divides, it's not hard to guess which temptations will lurk before Christians. First, we will be tempted to unite people around something other than God's divisive Word, like music, or style, or acts of service . . . Second, we'll be tempted to water down God's Word. To soften it. Bringing up the Bible can be like walking into a room waving a sword. People are going to fight or flee. So keep it in the scabbard, right? Of course not. When we do, we invite people to something Jesus is not inviting them to, like inviting friends to a basketball game when Jesus means to invite them to a wedding. Jesus has specifically invited people to a wedding, knowing that many will refuse to put on wedding garments (see matt. 22:11-13). Believe it or not, Jesus means to divide people through His call to repentance (Matt. 10:34f). When we soften the invitation, leaving out the tough bits, we oppose His very purposes." (35-6) 
My favorite part of the book was Part 2: The Sermon. Of course, I am a preacher, and I want to be the most powerful preacher I can be. His words helped reaffirm to me that the power in my preaching comes when I "plainly and modestly relate whatever [God] has already said in the Bible" (110). He says, "After all, what builds the church--our creative ideas or God's Word" (110)?

If you would take my advice and read this book, I might guess that your favorite part would be Part 1: The Word, where he articulates how the Word of God invites, divides, acts, frees, and gathers. All very important concepts, but let me emphasize just one part: How the Word of God frees. He makes the argument that the Word of God is what God uses to rescue the heart of mankind from sin and set him free. Let's just assume that is correct (which I do believe), then why wouldn't we use it all the more. He says,
"If the individual heart is freed and given life exclusively through the Word, then priority in the local church must go to Word ministry--sharing the Word, preaching the Word, singing the Word, reading the Word, and praying the Word." (72)
Now, I wouldn't say that what he says is anything new. That's not the value of this book. It's value is appreciated in his articulation of these thoughts. He is a very gifted writer that flows from one thought to the next. In addition, he has a great way of phrasing thoughts in the form of questions that make the reader ponder their own life.

If you have ever wondered what role the Word of God should play in the life of the Christian, this is a book for you. Read it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)

This was a great week. Sunday was a great Sunday. That is because I was able to teach on what it means for the body of Christ to love one another. In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, he tells them that they are doing a good job of loving one another, but that they should still increase more and more in it. Christians, we never come to a place where we should be satisfied in our love for each other.

The love that Paul talks about is philadelphia love. It is brotherly love. It is the kind of love that a person would have for their family. Jesus says in Luke 8:19-21 that those who obey God is His family. When we are saved, we are placed into the Body of Christ. Another way of saying that is that we now have a new family. A spiritual family. The church should not be just one among many groups a Christian gathers with, it should be THE group it gathers with. It is so much more than the Kiwanis Club or the Boy Scouts. It is family.

There were so many ways to take this message, but what I decided to do in this sermon was to be really practical. We have all heard sermons telling us why we should love one another. I decided to take the bulk of my time and give examples of things we can do in order to show that we love one another. But listen, if these things ever become a list that we check off, the point has completely been missed. This is about the heart behind taking care of your family.

Here was my list of 20 Practical Ways To Show Someone You Love Them.
  1. Send an encouragement card
  2. Invite them for dinner to your house
  3. Take them a dinner
  4. Help someone move
  5. Confront their sin
  6. Pray for them
  7. Follow-up with their prayer requests
  8. Open up your life to them
  9. Genuinely listen to them
  10. Ask them questions about their life
  11. Send an encouragement text message or email
  12. Call them to see how they are doing
  13. Watch their kids for free so they can get a night away
  14. Help with a project around their house
  15. Greet them kindly
  16. Speak Scripture to them
  17. Send them an anonymous gift
  18. Tell them you care for them
  19. Think highly of them
  20. Forgive them when they sin against you.
If you want to hear them all explained, the audio is usually uploaded by Tuesday afternoon. You can find it HERE.

What are some other ways you come up with that you can do to show someone you love them?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Video Sunday: The Shack by Mark Driscoll

This past week, I revisited The Shack, the book that took the Christian world by storm just a few years ago. It is in fact, still very popular. I took three days and gave the reasons why I really didn't like the book. To finish out this thinking, I thought I would give you a chance to listen to Mark Driscoll on why he didn't like it either. I think he was a bit more bold than I was, what do you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Worshipping a Non-Wrathful God


I came across this quote in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology the other day and was blown away. It was in a section that dealt with the wrath of God. He says,
"As with the other attributes of God, this is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God. It may not immediately appear to us how this can be done, since wrath seems to be such a negative concept. Viewed alone, it would arouse only fear and dread. Yet it is helpful for us to ask what God would be like if he were a God that did not hate sin. He would then be a God who either delighted in sin or at least was not troubled by it. Such a God would not be worthy of our worship, for sin is hateful and it is worthy of being hated. Sin ought not to be. It is in fact a virtue to hate evil and sin, and we rightly imitate this attribute of God when we feel hatred against great evil, injustice, and sin." (206)
What would it be like to worship a God that did not punish sin? A very good question. My guess is chaos!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Penn State Debacle

Our country has been stunned the past week as report after report has emerged that a former player and coach, Jerry Sandusky, at Penn State University allegedly was involved in the sexual abuse of children. To make matters worse (if that is possible), many people in the leadership of the university, including Joe Paterno, had knowledge of the events. 

The entire situation is saddening and sickening, all at the same time. Over the course of the past week, there have been many who have written some very helpful articles concerning these tragic events. Instead of writing another article on this topic, I thought I would provide a blog that links to the best articles I have read on the issue.
  • The Tragic Lessons of Penn State--A Call To Action by Albert Mohler. As is normal for Mohler, he cuts through the fog and states exactly what needs to be done by Christian organizations in light of what happened at Penn State. This is some very helpful advice from a president of a university.
  • Protect Our Children by Thom Rainer. He gives some really helpful advice on some practical things churches and Christian organizations can and should do in light of the Penn State events.
  • The Penn State Scandal and the Image of God by Erik Raymond. This was a post that was helpful at the beginning of the week before the firing of Joe Paterno. Raymond looks at this issue from a rather interesting perspective, how can someone who is created in the image of God do something like this? And how can many be so outraged if we are created in the same image of the same God as the person who did this?
  • Accountability and Penn State by Tony Dungy. In this short blog post by the famous football coach, he says we all have a responsibility to hold one another accountable.
I am very sure there are many other voices out there that have some good things to say. If you have read something that you felt was particularly helpful to you, please post a link in the comment section below.

And I just can't help but to pray for those families that were affected by this. I pray that the power of the gospel can heal them of their pain they are going through. I pray that they find the cross of Jesus an example of forgiveness. Please remember them in your prayers as well today.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Revisiting the Shack, pt. 3

    The last two days I have been reviewing the fictional book, The Shack, by William Paul Young. The first day, I made note that while this is a fictional book, it has influenced people's perception of God. This means that if it is faulty, then their view of God would then be faulty. Then yesterday, I showed some of the errors in this book as to how the Trinity is viewed. The Trinity is an essential part of the Christian faith and this book teaches a form of Modalism, a horribly heresy.

    Today, let me finish with one more aspect of the book that I particularly thought is unbiblical. That is, his view of salvation. My fear is that this book teaches a form of Universalism, that all people go to heaven. To be fair, I have heard Young say in some interviews that he does not believe that. The only problem is that this book teaches it. Let me explain.

    When we deal with the issue of salvation, one of the first questions that needs to be asked is "salvation from what?" What are we saved from? Sin? God's Wrath? But even beyond that, the "why" question needs to be asked as well. Why do we need to be saved? At one point in the book, Mack (who is the main character) is talking to Papa (God the Father). He says,
    "'Honestly, don't you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?' At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. 'I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it.'" (119-20)
    I am not debating that there are consequences to sins, but this statement makes it seem as if a person's personal consequences to sin are the only punishment they will have for that sin. But the Scriptures are clear that God WILL punish sin (2 Thessalonians 1:9). God does punish sin. Not everyone is going to be saved.

    At another point in the book, Papa says to Mack:
    "'Honey, you asked me what Jesus accomplished on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.' 'The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?' 'The whole world, Mack. All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but is the nature of love to open the way.'" (192)
    This is what is so frustrating about this book, that statement is partially true. It may make me warm and fuzzy, but it leaves me hanging theologically. On one hand, yes, God has done his work of reconciliation. But God has not reconciled the entire world to Himself and now is sitting there waiting in eager anticipation for people to do their part (which, by the way, is essentially a masked view of works salvation).

    Reconciliation means that a relationship has been restored. Which, for us, would mean, that our sins have been taken care of (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). That has not happened for all people everywhere. After reading that, I would wonder who goes to heaven? Later in the book, the true colors of Young shine brightly, when his character of Jesus says,
    "'Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.' 'Does that mean,' asked Mack, 'that all roads will lead to you?' 'Not at all,' smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. 'Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.' (182)
    Some of that sounds good. I understand his point against organized religion, but nowhere does he tell how a person is to be reconciled. It does not address that the only way to God is through Jesus. Yet, earlier in the book, the Jesus character did say this:
    "I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different from how they love you." (110)
    Jesus is not the best way anyone can relate to God, He is the ONLY way (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). There is not one best way, there are not many ways, there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ.

    Can a person be saved from The Shack? I suppose that God can use anything. But the only way I think it could happen is if that person is driven to the Bible to gain a clearer understanding of salvation. The God of The Shack is not the God of the Bible. The Jesus of The Shack is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Holy Spirit of The Shack is not the Holy Spirit of the Bible. And the Gospel message of The Shack is incomplete, hidden, and not the gospel message of the Bible.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Revisiting the Shack, pt. 2

    Yesterday I started a short series of blog posts revisiting the problems I have with the book, The Shack. It has been several years since this book took off as a Christian bestseller, but it seems to still have some influence. Today, let me share one of the greatest reasons why I did not like this book. It has to do with the view of the Trinity!

    There is no doubt about it, the number one objection I have with this book is the way in which the Trinity is visualized. There are so many problems, starting with the fact that God the Father is personified as a large, African-American woman. God the Father is not black or white. He is not man or woman (however, all references to Him int he Scriptures are that of male or father, not mother, which is probably meant to mean something). God the Father is Spirit and we are to worship Him as Spirit (John 4:23-24).

    The second commandment says that we should not make a graven image of any kind to represent God. That means, the Father and the Holy Spirit, we should not be seeking to create images of them. We can visualize Jesus as a man, but He became a man. The Father and the Spirit never did. Visualizing the Father as Aunt Jemima or the Spirit as a small Asian woman is in fact a sin of idolatry.

    But that is not the main problem I have with how Young portrays the Trinity. His main error is what is known as Modalism. Before defining that, let me clarify what the Scriptural and Historical view of the Trinity. The concept of the Trinity is usually defined as "God is One in essence, three in persons." That means, there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While God is one in essence, the Father and Son and Spirit exist as distinct persons simultaneously (Matt. 3:16-17)

    It is a hard concept to grasp, but essential to our understanding of God. I have heard it said before, "Try to explain it and you'll lose your mind; Try to deny it, and you'll lose your soul."

    Now on to Young's error of Modalism. This was an early Trinitarian heresy that taught there was one God, but that one God reveals himself in different ways over time; as Father, as Son, and as Spirit. This heresy would say that these are not distinct persons, but rather different names or functions for the one God. It would be like the One God is wearing three different masks as three different members. The classic illustration that I have heard many use to define the Trinity is in fact a Modalistic illustration. The same glass of water can appear as ice, liquid, or steam. But it cannot appear simultaneously in every mode. God can and does exist simultaneously as the Father, Son, and Spirit. How is this revealed in the book?

    At one point, when talking about how Mack felt losing his young daughter, he looks at Papa (God the Father) and says:
    "'How can you really know how I feel?' Mack asked, looking back into her eyes. Papa didn't answer, only looking down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his. She allowed him to tenderly touch the scars, outlines of a deep piercing, and he finally looked up again into her eyes. Tears were slowly making their way down her face, little pathways through the flour that dusted her cheeks. 'Don't ever think that what my son chose to do didn't cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark,' she stated softly and gently. 'We were there together.'" (95-6)
    Papa goes on to say in the book,
    "When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed." (99)
    At the end of that conversation between Mack (the main character) and Papa, mack says to God the Father,
    "I'm so sorry that you, that Jesus had to die." (103).
    The Father did not die. The Spirit did not die. Jesus died. This idea of Modalism is even more enhanced when Mack has a conversation with Jesus and asks if Sarayu (the name of the character) was the Holy Spirit.
    "Yes, She is Creativity; she is Action; she is the Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit." (110)
    Once again, Young fails to distinguish between the personhood's of the Trinity. There are other parts of his view of the Trinity that I disagree with, but will not take the time to explain here. For instance, he says there is no authority even amongst the trinity. The Scriptures clearly teach that the Son submits to the Father.

    Tomorrow, I will deal with the problems I have in the book in regards to its view of salvation.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Revisiting the Shack, pt. 1

    Last night, I was talking to a couple from our church that told me they enjoyed the book The Shack. Then they asked that very pointed question, "did you like it?" What was I to do? So, I just launched into it. I told them that I really did not like it at all. I went through and explained to them some of the reasons I did not like the book (off the top of my head, it has been a while since I thought about it). They were somewhat surprised that the book said what I was saying. They said they never caught those things I was saying.

    After reflecting upon that conversation, I thought I would take a few posts and revisit what it was that I did not like about this book. Before I get into all of the theological reasons I didn't like the book, let me give you just one practical reason: People allow fiction books to influence their view of God. That means, even though it is fiction, it must be theologically accurate. This book is a fiction book. There should be no confusion about this matter. I have never been a huge fan of Christian Fiction (even though I have a fiction book in mind that I have started working on). In fiction, the author tries to tell a story. In that story, they will convey truth or error. In some ways, people will always struggle with viewing their theology more from books like The Shack than they do from the Bible. And if you think this book hasn't influenced people theologically, you might need to pull your head out of the sand. What have people said about this book?
    • "THE SHACK is the most absorbing work of fiction I've read in many years. My wife and I laughed, cried, and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. THE SHACK will leave you craving for the presence of God." (Michael W. Smith)
    • When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize, the result is a novel on the order of The Shack. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress did for his. It's that good! (Eugene Peterson)
    • The Shack will change the way you think about God forever. (Kathie Lee Gifford)
    • My biggest disappointment with Christian books is that almost all of them seem to say the same things in the same way. Not so with The Shack! It reads like no other book, and tells a story I guarantee you have not heard before. Enjoy the adventure! (Bart Campolo)
    • Wish I could take back all the years in seminary! The years the locusts ate. Systematic theology was never this good. The Shack will be read again and again. With relish. Shared with friends, family, and strangers. I can fly!" (Amazon Review)
    • I read the book and gave away 30 copies. Hey it's got some iffy stuff in it, but you know what...I wept for an hour...I have never done that in my life...I grew in my understanding of God...I know it's a novel but it gave me some mind material to flesh out what the Bible doesn't tell us about God...dare I say the Spirit can speak (not only through the Bible) but also secular media--even the works of God's hand. (reviewer on www.theshackreview.com)
    Did you see that? Here's my problem. When people say it has changed the way they think about God, no longer can we say it is just a cute little fiction book. We need to think critically about this book. Even a few years removed from it being published.

    That is what I will do over the next couple of days. I hope to point out several reasons why I thought it was wrong theologically and hope to show the truth and error behind it. I hope this is helpful for at least someone.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    The Morning After: Authentic Holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

    Personal Holiness! That is something that should be a concern of every Christian. God's will for the Christian is to grow closer to Him in the way they live their life. That is Paul's point in this section of Scripture that he wrote to the church at Thessalonica. He knew he had taught them how the Christian should live, but he wanted them to continue growing. 

    As I studied this, one question kept coming to my mind: "Am I growing closer to the Lord?" Can I look back over the past year and see growth in my walk with Him? There is one very important thing that Paul does as he gets into this section of Scripture. He begins by calling them "brothers." This is not meant to mean it is written to only men. It is a way for him to address them as Christians. He is going to call them to a high standard. He is going to talk about their sexual purity. But before he does, he wants to remind them that they are part of the body of Christ. They are Christians. Which means that Jesus has already changed them on the inside.

    God always changes us from the inside out, never from the outside in. Any change that happens from the outside in is simply behavior modification. That invariably leads to moralism and legalism. God needs to change the inside before the outside can be truly changed. But once He does change the inside, the outside begins to slowly change. He gives new desires and affections. And what once was appealing to you is no longer attractive.

    Paul says that it is God's will that we be sanctified. This word technically has the idea of "separate from or set apart to." Unfortunately, many Christians seem to only emphasize the "separate from" aspect of this term. Therefore, it becomes a great disservice to your Christian life when holiness becomes mostly about what movies you can't see, what music you can't listen to, what body piercings you can't have, what clothes you can't wear, what relationships you can't have, what stores you shouldn't shop at, and so on. Instead, it should be about what we are set apart to do. We get to image God. We get to be like Jesus. We get to grow into the image of Christ.

    Now, Paul's concern here generally is that they would walk in holiness. The specific example for the people of Thessalonica is that they would be sexually pure. Much of my time in this sermon was spent walking through the sexual revolution that Paul was calling them to (revolution from sinfulness to holiness). If you want to listen to the message, you can find it HERE!

    I ended the message with Five Ways To Avoid Sexual Immorality.

    1. Remember Sex is a Gift from God.
    2. Take Sexual Sin Seriously.
    3. Deal with Your Heart in This Matter.
    4. Pursue Your Spouse.
    5. Rejoice in Forgiveness Offered Through the Cross.

    It is a difficult message for the church, but a much needed one. One that needs to be talked about directly and frequently.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Video Sunday: Tullian Tchividjian Sermon

    I thought that since I ran a big giveaway this past week on Tullian Tchividjian's new book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, I would also post a short video that I found greatly encouraging. The illustration he gives really made me think about how I shepherd and parent my children. After you watch the video, ask yourself, "what would I have done in that situation?"

    By the way, congrats to Nick Sweetman, who won the free copy of the book.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    When To Become A Member

    Last night, I met with the elders of our church from 6 pm until 11 pm as we discussed, prayed, and planned many items for the future of Cornerstone Bible Church. One of the items that took much of our time last night was on the issue of church membership and how to get people who are faithful attendees to join the church. Our conversation made me think about an article that I read from Brian Croft on his blog the other day that was entitled, How Long Should You Attend Church Before Pursuing Membership. He asks several questions for you to think about as you think about joining a church. I have quoted most of the article below, but you may want to visit his blog to gain the entire article.
    Is this a church where my family will be regularly fed by God’s Word? This is the first question that needs to be asked. Not just are they faithful to the Word of God, but is this a church where the preaching and teaching is such that my soul and the souls of my family will be nourished because of the way the Word of God is taught and preached? In other words, are they preaching expositionally through books of the Bible as the regular, steady diet of the congregation. 
    Is this a church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority? Does this church have real pastors/elders who see their primary task to be the spiritual care and oversight of the souls of the members? In other words, just because they have powerful, biblical preaching, does not mean your individual soul will be tended to on a regular basis. 
    Is this a church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability? To know this, it will require a bit of a commitment to one church for a time to build relationships, attend some church fellowship events, and get to know some of the pastors and leadership. 
    Is this a church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit? It will help to know where you are gifted and what some of the needs of the church are, but often times there are many needs that you can fill by simply your presence and commitment. Also, do not assume you know what those areas of need are by your limited observations. Look to see what ministries exist and where you see yourself and your family fitting. 
    If you can answer in the affirmative to all 4 of these questions, it is a good possibility you have found your next church. If you find yourself in that place I would encourage you not to delay, but to pursue membership.
    Those are some good thoughts and help me think through the issue of church membership. If you think about it today, would you pray for our elders as we meet together most of today as well.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

    Several months ago, I ran into an old acquaintance who is a senior pastor about thirty minutes from me. It has been great to start developing a good friendship with him and his family. We decided it would be good for both of us to get together once a month for some encouragement and fellowship. Of course, I wanted to redeem the time, so I recommended that we read a book each month and talk about it. This morning we are meeting to talk about a book he wanted to read by Wayne Cordeiro called Leading on Empty. This book tells the story of his life of burnout in pastoral ministry and how he finally took some time off to refill his tank and passion. It is a very personal book, as he talks about his struggles and his work-a-holic attitude that led him to burnout. It is his goal in this book to help pastors before they get to the place where he found himself.

    I need this book. My wife would recommend that I need this book. If I have any tendency, it is going to be work too much. I can hardly take a day off. I want to be there for anyone at anytime. I'm a work-a-holic. But before I get to some very specific things that helped me and I hope to implement in my life, let me share the one main critique I have with this book. And it is a big one.

    I honestly feel that this book would have been better if he had never quoted Scripture. Wow. I can't believe I said that. I doubt any Christian author would ever want that accusation placed on something they wrote. Throughout the book, there were many great principles that he made that really helped me, but then they were weakened by his a verse here or there that were thrown in to justify his point or to give it credibility. And it sure seemed that most of the time, the verses he shares are ripped out of their context. Let me give just one example. At one point, he says,
    "What I do is who I am, and who I am is inextricably connected to what I do. I am a shepherd. It wasn't something I chose as a business profession. It was something I could not escape." (96) 
    I agree. It is a calling. But then he quotes John 15:16, where Jesus says that His followers did not choose Him, but that they were chosen by Jesus that they would go and bear fruit. The problem is that this section where Jesus talks about His choosing of them has nothing to do with their occupational calling, but their calling unto salvation. This is just one example of many. I feel his use of Scripture leads people to take biblical interpretation carelessly.

    While I did not like how he interprets the Bible, his principles that he presents in order to avoid burn-out in life is very helpful. I would even say that many of the things he says would not just be for pastors, but for anyone. For me, one of the things I have been convicted of is just taking a day of rest. At some point, taking one entire day and resting. That does not mean sitting on the couch and watching TV, but it does mean doing something that refills my spiritual, emotional, and physical tank. There are many reasons to do this, but the one that stuck with me the most is how taking time of rest can actually display what you believe theologically about your view of your work. He says,
    "Schedule rests in before your calendar fills up. Rest is not an afterthought; it has to be a primary responsibility . . . When we rest at predesignated intervals, we are reminding ourselves that ultimately God controls the outcomes, not me or all of my wonderful efforts. It's good for us to wean ourselves off the need to be needed. For many of us, that will be the beginning of health." (125-6)
    Another thing that really makes sense is when he says you should never sleep in on the back side of the clock, but to sleep in on the front side of the clock. He makes a pretty good argument that going to bed at 9 pm and sleeping in until 5 pm is much better for you than going to bed at midnight and sleeping until 8 am. This Eastern Time Zone thing is killing me! But this might be something I will try more often.

    Probably the one thing I hope to implement more than anything is what he calls Personal Retreat Day (PRD). This is a time when he gets away from the office, maybe even away from the home, and spends one day reading, praying, planning, and evaluating your life. He likes to do it towards the end of the month so he can think about the next month. He says that it is something that must be scheduled into the calendar or it will never happen. Here is what he does.

    • Part One: A short physical workout and an long spiritual workout. Spend time with God. (2 hours)
    • Part Two: Calendar Organization. Look at how you have spent your time and look at how you plan on spending your time the next month (1 hour)
    • Part Three: Upcoming speaking and preaching schedule. Spend some time praying and thinking through an organization of what you will be speaking on in the coming months (2 hours)
    • Part Four: Honestly evaluate your life. Spend time grading yourself on your every component of your life. He has twelve places in his life that he grades (Faith life, marriage life, family life, office life, computer life, ministry life, financial life, social life, attitudinal life, author's life, speaker's life, physical life). You may choose many different categories. (1 hour)
    • Part Five: Message Preparation and Reading. I think I would do more reading for enjoyment at this point. Something to stir my soul. (2 hours)
    • Part Six: Dream. Write down goals you dream about in the next five years. (1 hour)

    That's a 9-hour day that will help you refresh and get more organized. This is something I hope to do. As I read this book, I know that I could be on the path to what he calls burn-out. I hope I can avoid it.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    God Knows Everything?


    As I was doing some systematic theology reading yesterday, I spent some time thinking about the omniscience of God.  Does God, in fact, know everything? And if He does, what does that mean for my life and ministry. Here are several verses that consumed my thinking.
    "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account." ~ Hebrews 4:13 
    "But even the hairs of your head are all numbered." ~ Matthew 10:30 
    "O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether . . . Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." ~ Psalm 139:1-4, 16
    Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, said about God's Omniscience:
    "God is always fully aware of everything. If he should wish to tell us the  number of grains of sand on the seashore or the number of stars in the sky, he would not have to count them all quickly like some kind of giant computer, nor would he have to call the number to mind because it was something he had not thought about for a time. Rather, he always knows all things at once. All of these facts and all other things that he knows are always fully present in his consciousness. He does not have to reason to conclusions or ponder carefully before he answers, for he knows the end from the beginning, and he never learns and never forgets anything." (191)
    God is all knowing. He is all-seeing. This means there will never be a time that we do anything that He does not know about. He even knows our thoughts and our motives. The intents of our hearts. But this also means that there will never be something that we are going through that He does not know about. There will never be something that takes God by surprise. There will never be a problem that He would not have the answer for it. There will never be a counseling situation where he does not have the information needed. He knows it all.

    Since God knows all things, what does that do for your faith?

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    What I Am Reading...From The Back Covers

    I thought I would take a short minute and let you know what books I am currently making my way through. Some of these reviews will be posted in the next couple of weeks. Some of them might be longer. Some of them were my choice to read and some of them were sent to me by some publishers for review. Here is what I am reading. Does any of them look interesting to you?

    I actually will post my review of this book on Friday. It has been very interesting and challenging as I think about working too much or pushing myself too much so that I become drained to the point of exhaustion.
    "In Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro candidly shares his experience of burnout with the hope that it will encourage others headed down the same path. He was able to get back in touch with his life, get back in proper balance, and allow God to reenergize his spirit in a way that propelled him forward to greater levels of service. Learn from his experience how you can continue a fruitful ministry. Better yet, take advantage of Wayne's helpful advice early on and avoid burnout altogether."
    I met Jonathan Leeman back at The Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. This was one of the free books they passed out and I have greatly enjoyed it. I am most of the way through it. Look for this review sometime next week.
    "Written both for church leaders and those in the pew, Reverberation proposes that churches become healthy and Christians become vibrant through evangelizing, preaching, teaching, singing, praying, and discipling one another with God's Word. From the pulpit to the playground, Reverberation reveals how God's Word can reverberate through our lives to reach outsiders and then grow and sustain us, His church. But this doesn't happen by accident--first, we must renew our confidence in the Word."
    This is a book that was sent to me by a publisher that I am sort of interested in reading. Here is what the back cover says about the book. 
    "Alisa Harris grew up in a family that actively fought injustice and moral decay in America. She spent much of her childhood picketing abortion clinics and being homeschooled in the ways of conservative-Republican Christianity. As a teen she firmly believed that putting the right people in power would save the nation. But as she moved into adulthood, Alisa confronted unexpected complexities on issues that used to seem clear-cut. So she set about evaluating the strident partisanship she had grown up with, considering other perspectives while staying true to the deep respect she held for her parents and for the Christian principles that had always motivated her . . ."
    I have had this book for months and don't know why I have not gotten to it. It is part of the Christian Encounters series with Thomas Nelson publishers. And it is about Tolkien. I hope to move this higher to the priority list as soon as I can.
    "It was through The Hobbit and the three-volume The Lord of the Rings that Tolkien became a literary giant throughout the world. In his fiction, which earned him the informal title of "the father of modern fantasy literature," Tolkien presents readers with a vision of freedom--nothing preachy--that a strong, unequivocal faith can transmit."

    And yes, I am slowly making my way through this heavy duty biography of Steve Jobs. Don't expect this within the next couple weeks though. And of course, Steve Jobs would never allow something to be written on the back of a jacket cover, that becomes much too cluttered. The book is about his life. There you go.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Birthday Encouragement From Jonathan Edwards

    Well, today is my birthday. I stated last year that I really do not like this day. Maybe it is just that I am very retrospective by nature, but every year on my birthday I am driven to think about my life.

    The other day, I pulled out volume 2 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards. I pulled it out to show someone how intense it is. Meaning, it is not one of those books you decide to just sit and read through. As I pulled it out, I noticed there was a sticky note doing what it is supposed to do, sticking out of a certain page. I opened to the page and reflected back again on a discourse Edwards once wrote called "The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It." Once again, I was brought to think about the preciousness of time. The importance of time. The reason I usually do not like this day is that it signals one less year I have for the Lord. But as my son said the other night, "Yes, dad, you have one less you, but you are one year closer to being with Jesus." I guess that's the sort of response you want to hear as a parent from your children. 

    It might sound strange to you, but reading this short article by Edwards gave me hope and encouragement. It makes me want to keep pushing on and keep redeeming the time. Listen to some of
    "Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance. We know that it is very short, but we know not how short. We know not how little of it remains, whether a year, or several years, or only a month, a week, or a day. We are every day uncertain whether that day will not be the last, or whether we are to have the whole day . . . This is the case with multitudes now in the world, who at present enjoy health, and see no signs of approaching death: many such, no doubt, are to die in the next month, many the next week, yea, many probably tomorrow, and some this night; yet these same persons know nothing of it, and perhaps think nothing of it, and neither they nor their neighbors can say that they are more likely soon to be taken out of the world than others. This teaches us how we ought to prize our time, and how careful we ought to be, that we lose none of it."
    I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring, do you? So let's make the most of this day. Let's make the most of every hour we have with each other. Let's make the most of every minute. Let's redeem our time together. Our time is a special gift that the Lord has given us and I suppose that at some point in the future, we will give an account for our use of the time He has given. What will we say?

    Look at that picture to the right. In many ways, I like this picture. Not because of the colors or the nice picture of Edwards. But because it stands as a reminder that he was a man. He was born in 1703 and he died in 1758. That means that he lived for 55 years. If God were to be gracious to me to live 55 years, that means I would have 17 years remaining. It is a reminder to me, what am I going to accomplish by His grace for His glory with His power in the next 17 years? For this to become a reality, I listen to his advice:
    "Improve the present time without any delay. If you delay and put off its improvement, still more time will be lost; and it will be an evidence that you are not sensible of its preciousness. Talk not of more convenient seasons hereafter; but improve your time while you have it . . . You have need to improve every talent, advantage, and opportunity, to your utmost, while time lasts."
    What do you want to accomplish in the next 17 years? What can you do to take advantage of your time?